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At the Races: Born to Runoff

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. —Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week: Female Democrats continued their winning streak in Georgia, Tennesseans prepared to vote for someone not named Duncan, and gun violence remained a salient issue in Democratic primaries.


Three months ago, thousands descended on Washington for the March for Our Lives rally to push lawmakers to address gun violence. Even though the topic is no longer dominating the news, Democrats still see it as one that could motivate their voters in upcoming primaries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Three months ago, thousands descended on Washington for the March for Our Lives rally to push lawmakers to address gun violence. Even though the topic is no longer dominating the news, Democrats still see it as one that could motivate their voters in upcoming primaries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

A New Name for K-Town: An alleged FBI investigation, accusations of support for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and a sole female candidate who’s picking up late support? The seven-way GOP primary for Tennessee’s 2nd District has plenty more intrigue than your typical who’s-the-Trumpiest-of-them-all primary in a safe Republican seat. Whoever wins on Aug. 2 will likely be the first person not named Duncan to represent the Knoxville-area district in more than 50 years.

*BOOKMARK* What other states are holding primaries in August? Check them out with Roll Call’s midterm guide.

Year of the Woman: Democratic women continued their primary winning streak this week, with female candidates securing the nominations in Georgia’s 6th and 7th districts in Tuesday’s runoffs. (EMILY’s List backed both activist Lucy McBath in the 6th and professor Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th, but the pro-abortion rights group didn’t make any independent expenditures on their behalf as they’ve done to help women in other crowded primaries.) McBath, however, wasn’t without outside help. She benefited from $1 million in spending from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

On the Airwaves: McBath’s victory highlights how gun violence remains a salient primary issue for Democrats. And candidates in at least three upcoming primaries have discussed the issue in their television ads, believing it will motivate voters or help bring more into the fold. Check out where else the issue is playing out, even as gun violence has faded from the national headlines. And Bridget breaks it down in this quick video.

Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore — Or Are We?? The Democratic primary in Kansas’ 3rd District was thrust into the national spotlight with visits from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last weekend. The six-way race has turned into a debate over general election strategy — and no one knows which Democrat is favored to win.

What’s in a Number? Press releases about second-quarter fundraising by Senate candidates didn’t all tell the whole story (here’s looking at you, Mike Braun and Rick Scott). Releases that paint a rosier picture of the quarterly numbers than the official FEC reports are a reminder of the anachronistic reporting standards to which only Senate hopefuls are held.

The Count: 12

Nathan gives us a glimpse into the glamorous life of political handicapping — seven hours straight in a windowless basement talking to candidates. He sat down with 12 congressional contenders in two days recently, and had some takeaways (like, Democrats don’t really want to talk about Nancy Pelosi …)

And you can get an inside look at what happens in these candidate interviews with this video, which we promise was shot at our offices and not at Dunder Mifflin.

Nathan’s Notes

A recent poll showed an uptick in support for upholding the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. But Nathan breaks down how polling on abortion has actually been fairly consistent.

Candidate Confessions

Eddie Edwards is used to being mistaken for a Democrat — until he opens his mouth. The African-American Republican is running for New Hampshire’s open 1st District. The former police chief, who spent his career in law enforcement, grew up in Atlanta and feels strongly that federal housing policy, welfare and affirmative action haven’t helped black people. Edwards says the No. 1 thing he talks about on the campaign trail is “character,” which he thinks President Donald Trump has in abundance.

Reader’s Race

You all are clearly interested in Texas House races! This week’s Reader’s Race is again in the Lonestar State in the Dallas-area 32nd District. Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in 2016, and Clinton ended up carrying the seat by 2 points with 48 percent of the vote. Sessions, first elected in 1996, previously chaired the NRCC and now chairs the influential House Rules Committee.

Democrats are targeting the suburban seat this cycle, with Colin Allred emerging from a costly and crowded party primary. Allred, a lawyer, is also a former professional football player for the Tennessee Titans. (One of your newsletter writers may or may not still be bitter about the Titans’ so-called Music City Miracle in 2000, but we digress.) After his football career ended due to an injury, he went to law school and also worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Like other Democratic challengers, Allred has been able to replenish his campaign coffers after winning the primary runoff in May. He was the DCCC’s preferred candidate in the runoff, with the committee adding him to its Red to Blue program in March. Allred outraised Sessions in the second quarter, bringing in nearly $1.1 million (counting his pre-runoff report too) to Sessions’ $696,000. But Sessions has nearly double Allred’s cash on hand with $1.87 million in the bank. Expect this race to attract outside money too. The Democratic group House Majority PAC reserved $2.2 million in the Dallas-Fort Worth market in March. But its GOP counterpart, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has reserved TV time in Texas’ 7th and 23rd districts, but not in the 32nd. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican.

For next week, email us at and let us know which race you want to know more about: Michigan’s 13th District or Pennsylvania’s 5th District.

Photo Finish

Schoooool’s Out! For! Summer! The House is leaving town for August recess today amid a break in the D.C. downpours. As Roll Call photo editor Bill Clark pointed out, lawmakers like Kansas GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins weren’t so lucky last year.

House Recess

Clarification Friday, 3:07 p.m. This story was updated to include Colin Allred’s fundraising total from his pre-runoff report in the amount he raised in the second quarter. 

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Photos of the week ending May 17, 2024